Green healing

Access to the outdoors provides therapeutic benefits to hospital patients.

Thankfully, I haven’t spent a lot of time in hospitals. There are so many exceptional facilities that provide top-notch care, but the hospital environment and atmosphere doesn’t really correlate with a pleasant place to heal. Generally speaking, hospitals have that weird smell, the beds are uncomfortable, the lighting is severe and the paint colors are bland (the medical industry must buy an ocean-sized container of putty colored paint each year – yuck).

Peer-reviewed, science-based research shows that patients who have access to plants and nature, or at the very least a view of green spaces, heal faster. A Norwegian hospital teamed with SnØhetta, an architectural and landscape design firm, to create a woodland care retreat. Located in Oslo and Kristiansand, Norway, the Outdoor Care Retreats “offer visitors a physical and psychological respite from stringent treatment regiments and the isolation that often follows long-term hospitalization,” according to the designers.

The structures are within walking distance of a major hospital, but nestled in the forest with views of trees, moss-covered rocks, ponds and wildlife.

"Nature provides spontaneous joy and helps patients relax. Being in natural surroundings brings them a renewed calm that they can bring back with them into the hospital. In this sense, the Outdoor Care Retreat helps motivate patients to get through treatment and contribute to better disease management," says child psychologist Maren Østvold Lindheim at the Oslo University Hospital, one of the initiators of the project.

The cabin consists of a main room, a smaller room for conversation and treatment and a bathroom. Large glass windows can be fully opened, allowing patients to hear the wind through the trees, the bird songs and the water trickling into the pond. The space can be used for treatment and meditation, and for spending time with family and friends away from the hospital. The cabins are open to every patient no matter what they’re being treated for.

I’ve previously shared what the forest and mountains do for my psyche. While the hospitals in your community may not be adjacent to a forest and unable to recreate the SnØhetta cabins, imagine what our industry can do for patients across the country with just a little bit of space and a truck load of trees, shrubs and flowers. Let’s help our neighbors heal.


September 2019
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